Welcome to the Balancing Act

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If you operate an e-commerce business, you’ll know intimately well the balancing act constantly playing out in your mind and in your strategic and tactical planning processes. As you plan your next move to take your web business to an even higher level of performance, you’re confronted with multiple and many times competing opportunities.

Do you identify and execute a new advertising method? Do you spend more time optimizing your current advertising methods? Do you test out a new advertising method you recently read about in a magazine? Do you expand your pay-per-click campaigns to LookSmart or a vertical search engine like FindGifts.com?

On the other hand, do you plan and execute a conversion improvement initiative based on the insights you gained from analyzing your website analytics? (Assuming that you do actually analyze your website analytics!) If you do, what traffic source do you focus on converting at a higher level? Do you test photo quality? Design more intuitive navigation? Add best sellers or featured items – maybe a Top 10? Do you re-organize your layout to add more prominence to your site search feature? Do you display your toll-free number more clearly? Do you streamline your checkout process? At some point after analyzing even if many opportunities exist for improvement – you have to decide where to start, where to commit your finite resources.

Or – do you focus on developing a stronger market strategy? Maybe add a free shipping with conditions offer (e.g. free shipping on all orders over $70.) Instead, do you implement a cart recovery process to pull back customers who recently abandoned their carts? Do you focus on improving your email marketing? Maybe personalizing your emails or segmenting email recipients by product purchased and target them for associated offers? Do you work on communicating a clearer and stronger value proposition? Do you add and clearly present customer reviews? Do you add relevant content to gain early-in-the-buy-stage visitors?

And the opportunities go on and on. Successfully operating a small to mid-size web business is a triumph. Balancing the opportunities and strategically choosing the ones that generate the bumps and surges in sales and others in profits is part luck and part something else. In my experience operating two e-commerce websites, I find that knowing and being guided by your performance metrics like conversion rates by traffic source, unique visitors, target cost per sale and so on help bring some light to decision making. Studying your competitors and reading case studies from places like MarketingSherpa.com helps too. Overall though I find that testing, measuring and consistently working at it (whether that’s gaining exposure, analyzing your website analytics, calculating performance metrics, building community) momentum pushes growth along.

In any case, take advice from Stephen Covey and “start with the end in mind.” Work backwards from your financial goals to determine the smaller steps needing to achieve them. Then work backwards form your smaller objectives to the opportunities that have through best practices, industry benchmarks, competitors, customer behavior and your own experiences have proven or have a higher probability of achieving them. Maybe it’s low-hanging fruit or breaking down and alleviating obvious conversion barriers either way identify, prioritize, implement and measure. It’s the process that helps you win the balancing act.

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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